2021 Toyota Yaris GR review: Little hatch on steroids


The Japanese maker is the most popular brand in Australia and its latest hatchback will completely change what you thought about it.

This is not your gran’s bowls club Yaris.

It’s more powerful than a Subaru WRX, all-wheel-drive and wrapped in an aggressive three-door body.

But does it work for a family of four?


Jules: It says Yaris but I don’t believe it. This one’s been living at the gym on a diet of spinach and steroids.

Iain: What a little weapon. The GR – Gazoo Racing – Yaris exists because World Rally Championship regulations insist road going versions of WRC racers must be produced.

Jules: So we performance-loving drivers benefit?

Iain: Oh yes. Homologation specials they’re called, and history shows most become collectors’ items.

Jules: I love it. It’s like a little toy. Such an angry front end, impossibly fat rear and tiny dimensions.

Iain: Outside, it shares only its front and rear lights and mirrors with a normal Yaris. It has a carbon fibre roof and the boot, bonnet and doors are lightweight aluminium.

Jules: Race stuff is expensive. How much for this baby?

Iain: Nearly $50,000 before on-roads if you can get one.

Jules: Ouch. What are its rivals?

Iain: Size-wise a Ford Fiesta ST or Hyundai i20N – both are much cheaper, but front-drive and way down on power. The larger Hyundai i30N or Renault Megane RS are similarly priced, but not all-wheel-drive.


Jules: I thought it’d be stripped inside, but it’s quite sensible.

Iain: Except for the racy touches. I love the little steering wheel, leather short-throw manual gear knob, proper handbrake for gravel hairpins and well bolstered suede and leather sports seats.

Jules: You don’t suffer in here. There’s dual-zone climate control, JBL audio, heated seats and a seven-inch screen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, satnav and rear camera.

Iain: The door tops are too-hard plastic, as is a central bin for your phone. This needs to be rubber – my phone flies out when cornering.

Jules: The driving position is excellent. My feet fall perfectly on the aluminium pedals.

Iain: Not for me. The seat doesn’t drop anywhere near low enough. I want a race car driving position, not an SUV position. On track days, I’d struggle to fit in with a crash helmet.

Jules: You should try the back. That sloping roof and tiny windows make it really claustrophobic.

Iain: My head was wedged on the roof. Tiny rear seats are better than nothing. It makes transporting kids a possibility.


Jules: Oh, it’s so much fun. That engine is so fruity and this car wants to race at every opportunity.

Iain: I never knew I could love a Toyota so much. It’s only a three-cylinder engine, but there’s an impossible 200kW and 370Nm. How?

Jules: I don’t care. Of the three drive modes, Track is most obnoxious. Such a bad boy rorty sound from those giant rear tail pipes.

Iain: But can it be a daily driver? I’d say just about. In Normal mode it isn’t too noisy, the ride is harsh but not spine-shattering and there are enough cabin comforts.

Jules: Not for me. I’d just want to rally it the whole time. I don’t think I could contain myself in traffic every day.

Iain: It can grate on the highway: at 110km/h, the engine spins at about 3000rpm.


Jules: Er, where’s the boot?

Iain: It’s a shoebox. This isn’t your shopping car. In more relevant news, you can fold the rear seats and fit a spare set of wheels and tyres for the track.


Jules: A winding mountain pass please, or a dirt rally stage.

Iain: Or a tight and twisty racetrack. You can’t own a GR Yaris and not test it in such a way.

Jules: On our favourite test road it blew my mind. It’s breathtaking how it builds speed so brutally and then steers so quickly.

Iain: There’s so much grip, steering feedback and all-wheel-drive surety. On the right road it feels like a proper race car. Change drive modes and the torque shifts its bias between front and rear wheels, changing the driving experience. I love it.

Jules: And 100km/h in a little over five seconds? That’s supercar stuff of a few decades ago.

Iain: Let’s rejoice it’s a manual gearbox only. Totally involving. With so many sold, it shows there’s still an appetite for these driver’s cars.


Jules: There are only two rear seats and they’re cramped. Our two kids just about fitted.

Iain: At least safety kit is decent, and the quoted return of 7.6L/100km won’t smash the budget. We managed 8.2L/100km without sparing the horses.

Jules: It’d have to be a second car really. An expensive toy.

Iain: I can’t see their values falling much. They’re in huge demand. Services are every six months at $260 a pop, which will soon add up.


Jules: Cars this fun, awesome and exciting are so rare today. I’d not have expected Toyota to make something like the GR Yaris.

Iain: It’s so refreshing to drive a car that properly stirs the emotions. It’s an instant classic and unlike any hot hatch I’ve driven.


Price: $49,500 plus on-roads

Warranty/servicing: 5 years/unl’td km (average); $1560 for 3 years

Engine: 1.6-litre 3-cyl turbo petrol, 200kW/370Nm

Safety: Six airbags, auto emergency braking, active cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keep assist

Thirst: 7.6L/100km

Spare: Repair kit

Boot: 141 litres

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